Join us for the Legislative Update call on
Monday, Oct. 8, at 1 p.m. (EST).
APHA's legislative staff will provide an update on
congressional activity and Q & A.
Call (800) 442-5794
I. President signs six-month stopgap to keep government funded
II. No resolution on sequestration before November elections
III. House passes bill to block public health regulations
IV. 2012 PHACT Campaign highlights
V. Senate committee passes PREEMIE bill
VI. Supreme Court to hear case on use of race in higher education admissions
VII. Advocacy track at APHA’s 140th Annual Meeting offers opportunity to learn about effective advocacy
VIII. Policy watch: State and international updates
President signs six-month stopgap to keep government funded
On Sept. 28, President Obama signed a six-month continuing resolution into law, guaranteeing funding for the government to continue operating through March 27. The continuing resolution sets discretionary spending for federal agencies at the $1.047 trillion cap as directed by the debt limit law or Budget Control Act of 2011. The cap allows for a 0.6 percent increase for most federal agencies and programs or a total of about $8 billion more than FY 2012 levels. The stopgap spending measure had bipartisan support from both the House and the Senate. Congress will still be faced with passing a final FY 2013 spending bill when the continuing resolution expires in late March.
No resolution on sequestration before November elections
In late September, Congress went into recess without addressing the looming budget sequestration set to kick in Jan. 2. Congress is not expected to return for votes until after the Nov. 6 elections. On Sept. 14, the White House Office of Management and Budget released a report outlining how the across-the-board cuts under sequestration would be implemented. APHA released a statement noting the negative impact the cuts would have on public health programs. The report estimates that across-the-board cuts of roughly 8.2 percent would be required for all nondefense discretionary programs, which includes most public health programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration and other public health agencies. APHA is working with its health partners and other members of the nondefense discretionary community (education, law enforcement, environmental protection, etc.) to urge members of Congress to find a bipartisan and balanced approach to deficit reduction and to avoid the deep cuts to nondefense discretionary programs under sequestration.
APHA has developed a page with resources for advocates to use in their efforts to advocate against sequestration. APHA members are strongly encouraged to contact their members of Congress to urge them to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction that prioritizes public health and avoids sequestration.
House passes bill to block public health regulations
On Sept. 21, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3409, the so-called Stop the War on Coal Act of 2012 by a vote of 233-175. The bill contains a number of ill-conceived measures previously passed by the House of Representatives. APHA and other leading public health organizations sent a letter to all members of the House of Representatives urging them to reject the legislation. The bill would repeal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s endangerment finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. Additionally, the legislation would eliminate EPA’s health-based standards for key pollutants by requiring that EPA take the costs to industry into consideration when setting standards. Currently, EPA sets the standards based on health and takes costs into consideration during the implementation of a new rule. The bill would also indefinitely delay the long-overdue Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants finalized in December 2011, and it would halt efforts by EPA to limit dangerous pollution from power plants blown across state lines into downwind states. The U.S. Senate is not expected to take up the bill.
2012 PHACT campaign highlights
This year’s Public Health Action campaign was a great success. APHA members and affiliates worked to educate their policymakers and the public about the importance of public health funding and to warn about the negative impact of the pending cuts to public health programs and agencies if the pending budget sequester is allowed to take effect in January. Several states, including Ohio, Montana, Maine and Mississippi saw a flurry of activity during the PHACT campaign. Numerous meetings were scheduled with members of Congress and their staff throughout the states’ congressional delegations’ district offices. A number of op-eds and letters to the editor were published in newspapers throughout the country including papers in Montana, Ohio and Kansas. You can read several of the published op-eds and letters to the editor on APHA’s PHACT campaign website. In addition, thousands of email messages were sent to Capitol Hill offices urging members of Congress to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction that prioritizes public health and avoids the across-the-board cuts under sequestration.
APHA is encouraging members to continue their advocacy activities into the fall. If you have not done so, there is still time to contact your members of Congress to urge them to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction that prioritizes public health.
Senate committee passes PREEMIE bill
On Sept. 6, APHA joined other public health organizations in sending a letter to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee urging them to consider a bill that would expand research, education and other prevention activities related to preterm birth and infant mortality. The original PREEMIE Act, passed in 2006, spurred a national focus on prematurity prevention. Currently, the preterm birth rate is below 12 percent for the first time in a decade, but preterm births continue to have major human and economic impacts on families and our nation. Reauthorization of the PREEMIE Act is critical to continuing the progress in preventing preterm deliveries.
On Sept. 19, the committee considered and passed the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo. It is not clear when the full Senate will vote on the bill.
Supreme Court to hear case on use of race in higher education admissions
The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Oct. 10 on the issue of whether institutions of higher education should be allowed to continue to use race as one of the factors used to achieve a diverse and culturally competent student body. The case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, marks the first time since 2003 that the court has addressed the issue of race in higher education. In the 2003 case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the court narrowly upheld, by a vote of 5-4, the University of Michigan’s consideration of race in law school admissions. The court approved Michigan’s program because it was designed to achieve a diverse student body, which the court deemed a compelling interest, and because it was “narrowly tailored” to that goal through a highly individualized, holistic, multi-factor review of each applicant.
APHA and other public health and medical organizations submitted an amicus brief to the court in support of the University of Texas at Austin's holistic admissions practices. The SCOTUSblog website provides a “plain English” summary of the case.
Advocacy track at APHA’s 140th Annual Meeting offers opportunity to learn about effective advocacy
APHA’s Government Relations and Communications departments will host a series of advocacy-focused sessions at the organization’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco from Oct. 27–31. The Advocacy stand in the Expo will also offer information on getting involved with APHA’s advocacy efforts, as well as fact sheets on APHA priorities and APHA’s annual vote record.
Sunday, Oct. 28, 8 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Advocacy training for leaders: Developed for Affiliate, Section and Special Primary Interest Group leaders, this session will offer interactive panels including APHA staff-led presentations on available tools and resources; APHA and Affiliate leaders sharing their advocacy efforts and successes; advocacy experts speaking on best practices; and legislative staff providing tips for policymaker communication.
Monday, Oct. 29, 10:30 a.m.-noon Media advocacy: Breaking through the crowded news cycle: This session will offer tips on how to work effectively with the news media to deliver public health messages to journalists, decisionmakers and other target audiences. A panel of journalists will share inside strategies for pitching stories to media outlets and other tips for generating news coverage.
Monday, Oct. 29, 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. The who, what and how of advocacy: This session will feature a discussion about the ethics and legalities surrounding lobbying, advocacy and advocacy in the workplace.
Monday, Oct. 29, 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m. Mobilizing a public health campaign: This session will feature a panel discussion on effective ways to engage the public, lawmakers, the media and partners in support of a public health issues.
Policy watch: State and international updates
Portland City Council approves fluoridation
On Sept. 12 commissioners of the Portland City Council in Portland, Ore., voted to add fluoride to the city’s drinking water beginning in March 2014. Fluoridation was last considered and rejected by the city in 1980. Today, Portland is the largest U.S. city lacking fluoride-treated water. The water system currently serves nearly a quarter of the state’s population. Regulated exposure to fluoride has been shown to reduce cavities and prevent tooth decay while overexposure can result in browning, according to the U.S. surgeon general. The cost to fluoridate the city’s water system would be about $5 million. Portland city commissioners may not have the final decision in the matter, as anti-fluoride advocates are pushing for a ballot measure to allow the public to vote.
Colorado Medicaid reform saves money
The current model of Medicaid in Colorado called “medical homes,” launched last year, is showing promising savings and will soon be reported to state legislature. Preliminary data shows a significant drop for in-patient hospital stays, cost of drugs and emergency room visits through better preventive practices, education and reduction of duplicative services. The medical home model supports patients by providing more coordinated patient care between providers in Medicaid and Medicare. The model encourages providers to reach health-outcome marks through emphasizing prevention and follow-up care. The Colorado state department of Health Care Policy and Finance did not request extra funding for the new fees under the medical homes model, expecting that the homes would create immediate savings, enough to pay for themselves, which appears to be the case from the initial data gathered by state Medicaid analysts.
Food security and nutrition in Africa
The U.S. government and other Group of Eight members, a forum for the governments of eight of the world’s largest economies, excluding China and Brazil, announced that three African countries have joined the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The New Alliance is comprised of the Group of Eight, African countries and private sector companies who work together to eradicate poverty through agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa in the next 10 years. Over $3 billion has been pledged by the partners to be invested in African agricultural development. The U.S. will support this program through its Feed the Future campaign that works toward ending global hunger by focusing on the smallholder farmers – those with limited resource endowments as compared to other farmers in the sector – to use agriculture as a means of spurring economic growth.
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